Britain’s Remembrancer: Or the Danger Not Over
Edinburgh: Printed by T. Lumisden and E. Robertson, 1757. Fifth edition. Small duodecimo. Original pamphlet bound in modern red cloth boards. Minor toning and spotting to leaves, as expected. Near-fine. Item #18
A bound copy of James Burgh’s (1714–1775) pamphlet that helped to spur the American Revolution. Burgh was a British Whig sympathizer and early proponent of free speech, universal suffrage, and political reform. In the decades leading up to the American Revolution, Burgh was widely recognized as a leading advocate and propagandist for radical commonwealth reform in Britain. Burgh was born in Scotland and attended St. Andrews University as preparation for entering the ministry, but illness precluded Burgh from completing his education. He would then practice in the linen and printing trades before becoming a teacher in London, ultimately managing his own academy for nearly twenty years. Burgh published several works on political and educational reform, including The Dignity of Human Nature (1754), The Art of Speaking (1761), and Crito; or Essays on Various Subjects, issued in two volumes in 1766 and 1767. In the early 1760s Burgh joined the Club of Honest Whigs in London, a group of political reformers who regularly met for coffeeshop discussions regarding constitutional and other commonwealth reforms and measures. The club’s members also included fellow “radicals” Richard Price, Joseph Priestley, Benjamin Franklin, and James Boswell. In 1774 Burgh wrote his magnum opus, Political Disquisitions, in three volumes, which sets forth his primary views on social, religious, political, and educational reforms. Burgh first published Britain’s Remembrancer in London in 1746, and the pamphlet was promptly reprinted by Benjamin Franklin the following year, and in Philadelphia in the next year, and yet again in Boston in 1759. In the pamphlet Burgh forcefully attacks and denounces the vice and corruption of contemporary British society and the threat that such degeneracy posed to common liberty. Burgh’s tract links the social, moral, and political decay of contemporary Britain with the downfall of other once-great empires of the past. Burgh’s little pamphlet would prove to be among the most widely read tracts in pre-revolutionary America, and its impact was noted by revolutionary leaders, including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. This fifth edition of Burgh’s pamphlet was published in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1757. A remarkable copy of a pamphlet that helped to spur a revolution.